River adaptation to fight flash floods

Heavy autumn storms are common along the east coast of Spain, sometimes with devastating impact on communities and their infrastructure. One rural region 50 km south of Valencia is tackling this problem through investment in specific measures along a section of the Vaca River.

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Spread over three years, the project centres on the village of Simat de la Valldigna. Work will include improvements to existing drainage, restoration of natural river features, and provision of new recreational facilities alongside the river.

Damaging weather

Simat is one of several villages in La Valldigna, a valley known for its agriculture and ancient monasteries. It lies alongside the Rio Vaca (Vaca River), which has its source in nearby mountains and flows into the Mediterranean Sea some 20 km to the east.

As with many areas up and down Spain’s east coast, Simat is subject every autumn to heavy rainstorms, hail, and violent winds caused by a weather phenomenon known as the ‘gota fria’ or ‘cold drop’. The storms can last several days, causing floods when rivers burst their banks. Part funded by the EU, the Flood Protection and Drainage Improvement Works in the Vaca River Basin project aims to reduce the harmful impact of flash floods.

Infrastructure changes

State-owned company Acuamed will carry out all the work. This includes increasing the capacity of the Vaca River over a length of some 390 m near Simat, but without changing the town’s layout. The river region between Simat and the confluence with the Malet ravine will also be reclaimed, thanks to various environmental measures over a river width of at least 15 m.

Further downstream, work will focus on controlling the water level as the river passes by Tavernes. This involves construction of a new 1 870-metre long canal in parallel with the current one. It will feature a low-water canal (10 m wide) and a separate canal (46 m wide) carrying the river at its normal height. Some 3.3 km of earth filling will also be added, starting at the left fork, to shift the river’s course northwards as far as Fontetes and then shift it again eastwards as far as the AP-7 motorway.

A new cycle path over 3.8 km long is being created, of benefit to the local population and visitors. The path should also protect and enlarge the river, preventing this area from being used for any other purpose. Lastly, common species found throughout Valencia will be planted along the river, with benefits for local flora and fauna.

The ambitious project will help to protect Vaca River communities and the local environment from the impact of flash flooding, while enhancing the area’s attractiveness as a tourist destination. It is also expected to create up to 50 jobs during the implementation phase.

Total and EU funding

The “Flood Protection and Drainage Improvement Works in the Vaca River Basin” project has a total eligible budget of EUR 48 400 000, with the European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 33 880 000 for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

Draft date